YOUR SMILE • by Elizabeth Pilsner

Swipe… beep… swipe… beep… swipe… BEEP! I’m on the third hour of my shift and that mantra pounds my mind, stirring with fluorescent lights for a headache, just short of a migraine. Still, plastered on my face is a half-smile, the “enthusiasm” the manager says will get me far… a promotion. Could I hope for that much?

Maybe then I could incorporate a few small luxuries into my economic plan. The Starbucks stand and a grande, double chocolaty chip, crème-based frappuchino awaits me: sugary cocoa bliss in a tall plastic cup. Alas, for now it isn’t mine for lack of coin.

Scanning boxes of Quaker’s oatmeal, stuffing a can of Folger’s coffee into a bag, I check out the wrinkled — perhaps emaciated — woman’s groceries, while she brushes back her short, curled hair with her fingers, and sets a cake on the conveyor belt. The cake is half-price, one of the expiring goods in our bakery; whoever’s getting that must be loved.

“Whose birthday is it?” I ask with a semblance of politeness, classically fake smile turning up my lips.

“Oh, no one’s really,” she admits, “but it seemed sad to let it go to waste when there is so much to celebrate.” So much to celebrate? Has she watched the news? Economic depression, suicide, homicide, terrorists, war: Our world is anything but something to celebrate. The lady seems to see my confusion because she elaborates:

“God has blessed me and you with so much, every day. I celebrate different blessings with every cake I buy.”

“What has God blessed you with today?” I question skeptically.

She hesitates a moment before brightly saying two words.

“Your smile.”

Elizabeth Pilsner is a senior in high school who has recently discovered she is not in fact meant to be an engineer, as chemistry and calculus are far less interesting than creative writing. Elizabeth enjoys writing, reading, and studying Spanish.

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Every Day Fiction